Irish carrier Aer Lingus has amended its aircraft close-up procedures after an Airbus A330-300 started taxiing for a transatlantic flight with a ground-handler accidentally locked in the cargo hold.

While the A330 was parked on a stand at Dublin Airport, preparing to depart for New York, the handler had attempted to retrieve a bag which had been mistakenly loaded onto the jet. The bag was supposed to be on an Aer Lingus flight to Los Angeles.

Although the handler had told the ramp agent and one of the loaders that he would be recovering the stray bag, the loader failed to pass this information to other members of the loading team. One of these team members was given a gesture to close the cargo hold door and, although he looked inside the hold, he did not see the handler.

After the aircraft started its engines and began to taxi the handler, rather than opening the hold door from inside, used a mobile phone to contact a supervisor’s office. The situation was relayed to the flight crew and the A330 returned to the stand.

Ireland’s Air Accident Investigation Unit (AAIU) describes the 28 December 2005 incident as “serious”, adding that “inadequate” procedures had caused a breakdown of communication, leading to the handler’s being shut in the hold.

“It was fortunate that the [handler] had a mobile phone on his person at the time,” it says.

While the handler was very experienced in A330 loading, the AAIU points out that no specific formal training or written procedures about closing up a flight had been given to loaders, nor had training courses covered the circumstances of a staff member being shut in a cargo hold.

Aer Lingus says that, as a result of the AAIU inquiry and its own internal investigation, it accepted recommendations to develop formal aircraft close-up procedures. A spokeswoman for the carrier says procedures have since been put in place to ensure no repeat of the incident.